Post 3: Tri Harder Open Water Swim Day

TriHarder Open Swim Event – 1st May 2017


“ It’s only cold if you’re standing still “


Today is Bank Holiday Monday.  I returned from two weeks offshore on Friday so i’ve not had much time to get myself together but it’s off to my first ever open water swim event.


I have to laugh sometimes at how much life is changing as a by product of trying to become a triathlete, years gone-by bank holiday weekends would consist of lay ins, food coma’s and T.V. This time round it will be neoprene, cold water and pond weed!


Last November I got back in the pool for the first time since my school days, I swam two lengths and was exhausted.  My swimming has come a long way since then thanks to some amazing support but i’m still super worried about today.  Thats something else about me, i’m a worrier, or maybe better termed over thinker! I cant for example just buy a T-shirt, i’ll need to read every review out there, order every size they do then micro analyse the fit once they’ve arrived finally choosing one, sending the others back only then to spend the next three weeks worrying i’ve made the wrong choice ! You getting the idea? . . . . . . . . .


I arrived at the lake and it looked beautiful, I was swimming in the last session of the day, there were two waves before me so plenty of time for my nerves to build! Not long after arriving the decked area was beginning to fill with eager swimmers in wetsuits. There was a real buzz among the swimmers, they were the first ones in, I’m not sure any of them knew how cold it’d be and most just wanted to get in. Briefing done and the first swimmers took the plunge ! A few high pitched squeaks and the odd moan but everyone was in ! It looked amazing to see the first pack of swimmers setting off for the buoy which was approx. 200M away but for me it looked about 10,000m away, amazing how the mind plays tricks on you. No sooner had they left they were back, the cold faces had turned into happy faces, I started hearing ‘its not too bad’ ‘i’m not cold anymore’ exactly the things I wanted and needed to hear !


The rest of the morning I spent walking round chatting, helping out, and meeting some really awesome people. It was a great boost to speak to so many newbies like myself and see that a lot of the challenges I was coming up against or had overcome were common between us so a great chance to share some tips.


I got into my suit about an hour early to avoid the changing room rush and to allow me some time to settle in. My good friend and Tri-Harder mechanic Carl had surprised everyone by getting himself a wetsuit and agreeing to come in with me, fellow ambassador and swimming expert SJ would be with me too so I was in great company and this defiantly helped to settle the nerves.


Briefing done and I’m making my way to the end of the decked area approaching the waters edge, I dipped my toe in and recoiled sharply which, I think was a mistake. I should have opted with the just get in approach taken by others as trying to get in a second time was harder ! One thing I didn’t know, but of course should have known and I certainly know now is . . . wet suits are NOT dry suits this explains my first comment in the water ‘my zips leaking’ ha! Nothing like some cold lake water down your back to wake you up. Few moments spent splashing about lowering myself lower and lower into the water and we were ready for the off. Myself and Carl took on the small loop first to get used to the temperature and being in the water, a very manly breaststroke approach was adopted for this first loop.


Feeling a lot better with being in open water and the temperature we completed another 3 small loops this time opting for the more traditional front crawl.  We both agreed it was time to take on the larger 400M out and back loop.  I must stress again that as a newbie it looked soooo far away and the fear of not having anything to hold onto was at the forefront of my mind. I don’t really know why as there was loads of helpers around, support boats , canoes etc but its just your brain saying ‘woooow you sure about this ?’ All that aside we braved it together, it was a lesson in sighting, not swallowing too much water and how to deal with the choppy lake all rolled into one. Heading out was into a headwind and as such some small chop, sighting for me became a trade off between seeing where I was going versus drinking lake water!  I Should maybe have practiced some sighting drills in the pool before hand?!  The turn came relatively quickly and then the chop was now provided a slightly different and new experience of being pushed sideways again something you don’t get in the pool but a slight correction and we’re in control of it. Then on the way back, we had the wind and chop at our backs and it felt like we were whizzing along so much so I forgot to check where I was going and don’t mind admitting I got very much aquatinted with one of the small inflatable buoys but hey, it’s alright . . .  right ? . . . right?


We stopped at the waters edge and I looked back at what we had done, it felt amazing to have ticked this off as I don’t mind telling you that when I first looked at the larger loop I was not sure I’d be able to make it round.


I absolutely loved my first experience of open water swimming.  I have no doubt that the safe and friendly environment created by Tri Harder helped, as did all the amazing people who turned out on the day offered their support and generally were just fantastic!


A good friend of mine told me when I was getting into Triathlon that ‘everyone in triathlon is just super nice’.  At the time I laughed this off assuming that this was just another saying to coax me into tri, BUT after today I realised what he means. Every single person I spoke to was in his words ‘super nice’. Probably seems a bit of an exaggeration but as a newbie coming into the sport that’s a big factor, what will people think, how will I integrate into these events and what about if I’m not good enough. Today showed me none of that matters, what does matter is being there, being willing to have a go and having the right people around you, the rest just kinda  . . .  happens ?!


Thanks to everyone who made today possible and special thanks to the people who have helped me get this far. Onwards and upwards!